In what appears to be a sign that a strike may be inevitable, British Airways' management has written an open letter to staff, asking individuals if they would be prepared to be trained to work
alongside cabin crew (who choose to work) if the majority of crew vote for industrial action in a ballot which closes on February 22.
This latest development follows the collapse of talks in the dispute between BA management and the main cabin crew union Unite over staffing levels and working conditions. A 12-day strike planned for Christmas last year was blocked by a High Court injunction, following irregularities in the original ballot of members. The potentially bad news for BA and its passengers now is that BA's 13,000-strong crew did vote overwhelmingly to strike last year and the same result is expected in a new ballot.
Len McCluskey, Assistant General Secretary of Unite said: ‘We have been engaged in intensive discussions with the company over the last few days, but unfortunately we have not been able to secure an agreement yet.
‘We therefore have to honour our commitment to give our members the voice they were denied by the courts before Christmas, and hold a fresh ballot for industrial action. In notifying the company of this, I have reiterated that we want talks to continue, and that the union is prepared to meet any place, any time, to try and reach an agreement which addresses the real concerns of BA's skilled, loyal and professional employees, while giving the company the savings it needs to stay airborne.
‘We have told management all along that this dispute, and the damage it does to BA's prospects, can only finally be resolved through negotiation. That remains our position, and I hope the company will make the best use of the time available before the ballot closes.’
In his letter appealing for help from staff, BA Ceo Willie Walsh said: ‘It has been a year since we started talks with the trade unions to do everything we can to save our airline in the face of the worst economic crisis in our history. There has been a seismic shift in our industry, with the slump in business travel driving down our revenue by ?1 billion. The fragility of our industry means many airlines have gone bust and others, such as our oneworld partner Japan Airlines, are on the brink of bankruptcy [now bankrupt-Ed].
‘Despite this and the recent talks at the Trades Union Council (TUC), Unite still refuses to accept our cost saving proposals in IFCE and, as you know, it has announced another cabin crew strike ballot, raising the prospect of major disruption to our customers. I know many of you will once again be appalled at the distress a strike would cause our customers and the damage it will do to our company – especially when so many of you have already made sacrifices. That is why I am writing to you today.
I am asking for volunteers to back BA by training to work alongside cabin crew who choose not to support a strike, so we are ready to keep our customers flying as much as we possibly can if this strike goes ahead.’